Tewell Leads Smyth by 1 at Kroger Classic

Saturday, September 11th 2004, 5:54 pm
By: News On 6

MAINEVILLE, Ohio (AP) _ Doug Tewell shook off a bogey on the first hole and shot a 7-under 65 Saturday to take a one-stroke lead over Des Smyth after two rounds of the Kroger Classic.

Tewell, the runner-up here last year, had five birdies on the front nine to pull even with Smyth, whose second-round 67 left him at 12 under, and two shots ahead of first-round co-leader Gary McCord.

Fred Gibson (65) was fourth at 9 under. Hale Irwin (67), Bob Murphy (69), defending champion Gil Morgan (67) and 2001 Kroger winner Jim Thorpe (68) were five strokes off the pace.

Tewell said the nature of a three-day, Champions Tour event allows a late strike for victory, the way he shot 64 in the final round to win the Greater Hickory Classic three weeks ago.

``What I have to do tomorrow is go out and win the golf tournament,'' Tewell said. ``I'm sure there are seven or eight guys who still have a great shot of winning. I just happen to be the guy on top right now. And believe me, I want to be there tomorrow.''

Tewell lost last year's Kroger Classic by two strokes to front-running winner Morgan.

``Last year was a good shootout with Dr. Gil Morgan,'' Tewell said. ``The way he's playing, he could be the guy to beat tomorrow.

``Maybe it's my turn to win it this year. I'd feel better if I had a six or seven shot lead.''

Tewell narrowly missed a chance to take a two-stroke lead into the final round when his 7-foot birdie putt on 18 rimmed the cup.

``My putter is feeling good in my hands,'' Tewell said. ``I wish I could have made that putt on 18.''

Smyth missed his chance to tie for the lead on 18 when he drove into the rough and had to scramble to save par.

``I was happy to make five,'' Smyth said. ``But I'd like to go back and hit that drive again.''

The European Tour veteran was happy just to be in contention.

``I'm in good shape,'' Smyth said. ``I'm very keen to get out and play a good round tomorrow.

``What you have to do is focus on playing your game. You can't get ahead of yourself. There are so many players capable of shooting 65.''

The Irishman, who has never won a PGA Tour or Champions Tour event, said he was content to go into the final round _ and beyond _ trailing by a stroke.

``Hopefully, with four or five holes to go, you look up at the scoreboard and see you have a chance of winning,'' he said.

Mark Johnson's 64 was the best round of the tournament, but that left him at 138 after an opening-round 74.

Bobby Wadkins withdrew from the event on the 11th hole with back spasms. He was 6 under at the time.

The $1.5 million Kroger Classic is being played at the 7,064-yard TPC at River's Bend, north of Cincinnati.

Murphy won the Georgia-Pacific Grand Champions event, a two-day competition for players 60 and over. His rounds of 67 and 69 for a 136 total beat Bruce Summerhays by a stroke.